The U.S. Department of Commerce will not be taking action against the Chinese social media platform TikTok anytime soon after a preliminary injunction issued by a federal court in Pennsylvania ordered the department to cease its actions.
‘[T]his serves as NOTICE that the Secretary’s prohibition of identified transactions pursuant to Executive Order 13942, related to TikTok, HAS BEEN ENJOINED, and WILL NOT GO INTO EFFECT, pending further legal developments,” the Commerce Department said in a statement about the injunction.
The injunction was issued in October following a lawsuit by three famous TikTok users, Douglas Marland, Cosette Rinab, and Alex Chambers, “seeking various relief” to stop the department from acting.
According to U.S. District Judge Wendy Beetlestone in Philadelphia, the Commerce Department’s intended operational cessation of the app may not fall under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and “presents a threat to the ‘robust exchange of informational materials.’”
The department appealed the decision on Thursday.
The Trump administration and Congress have warned of the security risks of the app, which is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance. In September, President Trump signed an executive order instructing the Commerce Department to “identify transactions within 45 days to protect national security and the private data of millions of people across the country.”
Shortly after the order, the Commerce Department announced it would be placing restrictions on the “transactions” of both WeChat and TikTok apps, prohibiting app stores from continuing to allow downloads or updates of either app to protect American users from the Chinese Communist Party’s use of them for nefarious purposes.
“The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has demonstrated the means and motives to use these apps to threaten the national security, foreign policy, and the economy of the U.S.,” the Commerce Department statement said. “Today’s announced prohibitions when combined, protect users in the U.S. by eliminating access to these applications and significantly reducing their functionality.”
The department also promised to place extra prohibitions on both apps, to be implemented in September for WeChat and enforced on TikTok beginning Nov. 12. These restrictions were supposed to make it illegal for internet services and “content delivery network services” to host or enable either app and would also ban the use of the “constituent code, functions, or services in the functioning of software or services developed and/or accessible within the U.S.”
“If there’s not a deal by Nov. 12 under the provisions of the old order, then TikTok would also be, for all practical purposes, shut down,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross had promised.
While Trump previously expressed interest in the sale of the app to a U.S. company such as Microsoft, no deal was struck before the mid-September deadline.
“I set a date of around Sept. 15, at which point it’s going to be out of business,” Trump told White House reporters. “But if somebody, and whether it’s Microsoft or somebody else, buys it, that’ll be interesting.”
Oracle Corp. and Walmart Inc. were supposed to be buying into the company to manage American user data and content moderation, eliminating any potential foreign threats, but TikTok’s owner ByteDance recently signaled its intent to have an order from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. specifying that its sale be overturned in a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C.
While a TikTok spokeswoman said the company was devoted to amping up the suggested security measures “even as we disagree with them,” the Treasury Department released a statement saying it was committed to eliminating any national security risks from the app.